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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Boston Red Sox

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After missing the playoffs in 2010, the Red Sox were on a mission to ensure they would be in the postseason in 2011. With Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford -- two of the offseason's highest-profile acquisitions -- leading the way, the Red Sox strolled into September with an 83-52 record and a 1.5-game lead in the American League East.

The Red Sox would win only seven more games the rest of the way, and they lost out on the wild card spot on the last day of the regular season. Instead of basking in postseason glory, the Red Sox have had to contend with an offseason of disappointment, a scandal revolving around the consumption of fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse, and a relative dearth of splashy roster moves.

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While the team has not reeled in any player of the magnitude of Gonzalez or Crawford, they have been busy in recent months nonetheless. Manager Terry Francona was let go, general manager Theo Epstein left for the Cubs, and Bobby Valentine and Ben Cherington, respectively, replaced them. Then Cherington reworked the bullpen, bringing in Andrew Bailey as the team's new closer (replacing departed free agent Jonathan Papelbon) and Mark Melancon as his set-up man. Ryan Sweeney came over from Oakland along with Bailey and will take over as the starting right fielder.

The Red Sox could be finished with their offseason roster moves, but they are far from done with setting their opening day lineup. Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie shared the shortstop position last season, but both have been dealt away with no clear replacement. Nick Punto, signed as a free agent in December, and Mike Aviles are the top candidates to win the job. Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are set as the team's top three starting pitchers, but the rest of the rotation is up for grabs. Former set-up reliever Daniel Bard, veteran swingman Alfredo Aceves, offseason pick-ups Aaron Cook, Carlos Silva, Vicente Padilla and Clayton Mortensen, and perennial starter-in-waiting Andrew Miller are all in the mix to fill out the rotation's final two spots. Finally, the Red Sox may need to replace Crawford for a few weeks, as he underwent wrist surgery in January. Cody Ross was signed shortly after Crawford's surgery, and he will likely earn some starts as a fill-in.

The Yankees and Rays arguably got stronger this offseason, so with the Red Sox making few impact moves and still having question marks heading into spring training, they may face an uphill battle trying to avoid a third straight year without a playoff appearance. Should Major League Baseball move ahead with its expanded playoff format, the Red Sox may have a chance. Then again, if Crawford can bounce back from a difficult first year in Boston, or if the team can manage to solidify the rotation in the absence of departed Tim Wakefield and injured John Lackey (Tommy John surgery), they may still manage to get into the postseason, even without the help of an additional spot.

Sleeper ... Ryan Sweeney, OF

The arrival of Sweeney as the Red Sox's new starting right fielder was met with reactions ranging from yawns to outrage, but few were excited about the development. As a producer of empty batting averages around .290 in Oakland, Sweeney had done little to establish himself over the past few seasons. However, the line-drive hitting outfielder was penalized by playing his home games in Oakland, but in Fenway Park, Sweeney gets a double-hitter's nirvana as his new home park. If Sweeney was capable of producing a 30-plus doubles season in Oakland, 35 or 40 doubles would not be out of the question in Boston. He still doesn't possess enough home run power to be valuable in Rotisserie leagues, but Sweeney could be a surprise contributor in Head-to-Head formats, where he would be worth a late-round flier or waiver wire pickup.

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Injury-risk sleeper ... Clay Buchholz, SP

Coming off a 2010 campaign in which he won 17 games and compiled a 2.33 ERA, Buchholz was overrated in many quarters heading into 2011. He benefited from an ultra-low home run per flyball rate (5.8 percent) in '10, and sure enough, he gave up long balls more frequently last year. After posting a more modest ERA and missing half of the season with a stress fracture in his back, Buchholz is likely underrated this spring. By all accounts, Buchholz is healthy again, and he could post an ERA in the mid-3.00s, just as he did a year ago. With mediocre strikeout and walk rates, it would be easy to underrate the veteran of five seasons, but he consistently gets outs by inducing grounders and avoiding hard liners. While many owners may pass him over in favor of pitchers who accomplished more last year, Buchholz is still capable of producing like a No. 4 Fantasy starter, and he should be drafted accordingly.

Bust ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

Saltalamacchia had shown the potential to hit for some power in the minor leagues, but prior to last season, he hadn't really delivered on it in the majors. His pace of 16 home runs in 358 at-bats was far better than any ratio he had put up previously, and particularly with a high percentage of short-distance homers, it seems unlikely that he will equal it this year. Salty's 23 doubles were also out of character, though some of those can be attributed to playing home games at Fenway Park. Still, owners should expect a downturn in Saltalamacchia's power and run-production stats this year, which would render him as a low-end option in standard mixed leagues at best.

2012 Boston Red Sox Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Jacoby Ellsbury CF 1 Jon Lester LH
2 Dustin Pedroia 2B 2 Josh Beckett RH
3 Adrian Gonzalez 1B 3 Clay Buchholz RH
4 Kevin Youkilis 3B 4 Alfredo Aceves RH
5 David Ortiz DH 5 Daniel Bard RH
6 Carl Crawford LF Alt Aaron Cook RH
7 Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Ryan Sweeney RF CL Andrew Bailey RH
9 Nick Punto SS SU Mark Melancon RH
Top bench options RP Bobby Jenks RH
R Mike Aviles IF RP Franklin Morales LH
R Cody Ross OF RP Matt Albers RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Will Middlebrooks 23 3B Triple-A Triple-A
Middlebrooks hit for power in the Eastern League, which is no mean feat. He will need to prove himself in Triple-A, but a promotion to Boston could happen late in 2012.
2 Ryan Lavarnway 24 C Majors Triple-A
Lavarnway is a flyball hitter like Saltalamacchia, but long-term, he should hit with more power and for a higher average. Could steal Salty's job this year.
3 Xander Bogaerts 19 SS Class A Class A
Bogaerts has impressive power for a shortstop, though he may not stay at the position as he progresses through the minors. Still several years away.
4 Anthony Ranaudo 22 SP Class A Double-A
Ranaudo is unlikely to appear in the majors this season, but he could contend for a rotation spot in 2013. He is a worthwhile target in long-term keeper leagues.
5 Matt Barnes 21 SP DNP Class A
The Red Sox chose Barnes with the 19th pick overall in the 2011 amateur draft. The UConn product could rise quickly through the system, though Fantasy owners are unlikely to see him in Boston this year.
Best of the rest: Alex Wilson, SP; Jose Iglesias, SS; Blake Swihart, C; Bryce Brentz, OF; Brandon Jacobs, OF; Garin Cecchini, 3B; Jackie Bradley, OF; Sean Coyle, 2B; Henry Owens, SP; Brandon Workman, SP; Stolmy Pimentel, SP; Christian Vazquez, C; Kolbrin Vitek, 3B; Junichi Tazawa, RP; Lars Anderson, 1B.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
M's activate Olson, option Guaipe, recall Montgomery for MLB debut
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) The Mariners announced several roster moves prior to Tuesday's game against the Yankees, per the team's official website. The club optioned right-hander Mayckol Guaipe down to Triple-A Tacoma to clear roster space for left-hander Mike Montgomery. Montgomery, a former top-20 prospect, was officially recalled from Tacoma and will make his big-league debut in a start against the Yankees on Tuesday.

Seattle also reinstated left-hander Tyler Olson from the disabled list and optioned him to Tacoma.


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by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:15 pm ET) Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin is back in the lineup for Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Nationals. Martin did not start the first game with R.A. Dickey on the mound, but he'll be back behind the plate to catch Marco Estrada. Martin is hitting fourth in manager John Gibbon's batting order.

No DH spot means no Edwin Encarnacion for Blue Jays
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:11 pm ET) Without the use of the designated hitter, Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion is out of the lineup for the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Nationals. Encarnacion was also absent from the lineup in Game 1, but did appear as a pinch-hitter.

The power-hitting DH has a decent track record against Max Scherzer, who starts Game 2. Encarnacion is 5 for 15 lifetime against the right-hander. Regardless, he'll start the game on the bench with Chris Colabello handling first base for the nightcap. 


Yankees INF Brendan Ryan moves his rehab to Triple-A
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:07 pm ET) Yankees infielder Brendan Ryan will continue his rehab assignment, as he was transferred from Class A Tampa to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, according to the Journal News. He is on the 60-day disabled list while recovering from a calf injury and has yet to make his season debut for the Yankees.

Tigers set up rotation with Kyle Ryan, David Price, Alfredo Simon
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:06 pm ET) The Tigers announced their upcoming starting rotation for the weekend series against Chicago, per the Free Press

Kyle Ryan, recently called up from the minor leagues, will get his first start of the year for the Tigers in Friday's game. David Price will follow on Saturday, and Alfredo Simon, in his second start since returning from bereavement leave, will start Sunday. 


Nationals C Wilson Ramos sitting out the nightcap of DH
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:05 pm ET) Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos is out of the lineup for the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Blue Jays. The veteran backstop was 1 for 4 in the first half of the twinbill and is just 5 for 39 over his last 10 games.

Jose Lobaton will draw the start behind the plate and bat seventh for manager Matt Williams.


Royals SPs Danny Duffy, Kris Medlen to pitch in sim game Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:05 pm ET) Royals starting pitchers Danny Duffy (shoulder, biceps) and Kris Medlen (elbow) will pitch in a simulated game Thursday, according to The Kansas City Star. Duffy threw a light bullpen session Tuesday.

Brewers' Khris Davis out 4-6 weeks after meniscus cleanup
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:04 pm ET) Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash said on Tuesday that the procedure to clean up the torn meniscus of outfielder Khris Davis "went well," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Davis is slated to miss four-to-six weeks while recovering from the surgery. He's hit .250/.337/.446 with five home runs and 16 RBI in 148 at-bats. Gerardo Parra is expected to see the bulk of the time in left field while Davis is recovering.


Tigers' Justin Verlander to make another rehab start
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5:01 pm ET) Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander is scheduled to make a second injury rehab start at Triple-A Toledo on Saturday, manager Brad Ausmus said, per the Detroit Free Press

Verlander threw 79 pitches in his first rehab start on Sunday. He's on the disabled list with a triceps injury. Ausmus said that Verlander felt "normal soreness" after the start.

Ausmus said he "wouldn't be surprised, unless something unforseen happens," if Saturday was Verlander's last rehab start. 


Nationals 1B Ryan Zimmerman not starting in Game 2 of DH
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:00 pm ET) Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman is finally getting a day off. Zimmerman is being held out of the lineup for Game 2 of Tuesday's doubleheader against the Blue Jays. The 30-year-old was hitless in three at-bats in Game 1, though he did drive in a run with a sacrifice fly.

Getting his first day off this season, Zimmerman had started each of the Nationals' first 51 games. But he has really struggled at the plate. He's batting just .162 (6 for 37) over his last 10 games.

Tyler Moore is drawing the start at first and hitting clean-up in the nightcap on Tuesday.


 
 
 
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